Charity

Corrie Ten Boom is second from the left. Betsie is on the far right.

One of the reasons I married my husband was I liked his energy. He has always had  tremendous grit  and made things happen. There is an intensity about him that I have benefited from and love. As we have grown older together sometimes I have found that I am irritated by this very same drive I fell in love with. Literally.

One day, I was in our car with Craig and he was at the wheel. As we tooled around Provo, when we went by the MTC I felt we were going too fast, like 50 in a 35 mile hour zone. I can’t remember if I said something, but I was feeling bugged. As we finished our errands,  I was thinking of taking dinner to a friend who had recently broken her hip. As Craig charged up the hill in the last half mile to our house, I felt the jolt of irritation again.  The Spirit said, “Before you take care of the dinner, you need to fix your feelings towards Craig.” I was shaken out of my meal planning and into this uncomfortable truth. My eyes were opened and I could see the irony of the situation. I felt sheepish and grateful for the divine help.

Recently I rereadThe Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom. I feel like another title could be, “How to be a Disciple of Christ, In Every Way, Under Any Difficult Circumstance”. Corrie and her sister Betsie were planted in a good spot of ground. Even though they never married, they lived with their angelic father who was a watch repairmen, in the city of  Haarlem, in the Netherlands. During the 1920’s and 1930’s their lives were busy and full. Corrie learned to repair watches, and Betsy managed the house. They fostered many children, watched over their neighbors and were faithful members of their local church. They had a loving and close family that would visit often. They had a rich, full life and the respect of the neighborhood for their godly and charitable lives. The Nazi’s came to the Netherlands in the 1940’s and the Ten Booms continued their charity, but extended it by opening their home to Jewish refugees, putting them all in grave danger. 

Jesus Christ was at the center of their lives. Everytime an obstacle came they would examine it and wonder what would Jesus do, and move forward with faith.

The family was finally caught and sent to prison. Their father died within ten days. Corrie and Betsie were sent to Ravensbruck,  a concentration camp, and even there, they were able to find a blessing in their flea infested clothing. The unbearable biting and the scratching that came from the fleas  made them realize they were being left alone by  the guards. They could meet and study the few pages of scripture that they had managed to smuggle in. When they realized this tender mercy they were overwhelmed with God’s love.

At the very end of the book is this story:

“Corrie herself was put to the test in 1947 while speaking in a Munich church. At the close of the service, a balding man in a gray overcoat stepped forward to greet her. Corrie froze. She knew this man well; he’d been one of the most vicious guards at Ravensbrück, one who had mocked the women prisoners as they showered. “It came back with a rush,” she wrote, “the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man.”’

“And now he was pushing his hand out to shake hers, and saying:’

“A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course — how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?’

“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face to face with one of my captors, and my blood seemed to freeze.’

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard there… But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein” — again the hand came out —“will you forgive me?”

“And I stood there — I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven — and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?’

“The soldier stood there expectantly, waiting for Corrie to shake his hand. She “wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us.”’

“Standing there before the former S.S. man, Corrie remembered that forgiveness is an act of the will — not an emotion. “Jesus, help me!” she prayed. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”’

“Corrie thrust out her hand.’

“And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.’

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart.”

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Corrie Ten Boom kept aligning her will to God’s. Her experiences and willingness takes my breath away. This is the deep stuff, the inner struggle to be better and construct scaffolding of character–the divine attributes of Jesus Christ. As we think about our New Year, there is outward stuff we can do like save more money, look better by getting healthier, or organize our space to be more clean and less clutter-y. Think about this inner work that only we know we are working on. Think about spending time with God in the morning, to have a connection with Him, to ask Him to help us have more faith, hope and charity.

After the above driving experience, I became much more aware of my husband’s charity towards me. I think that was part two of the Spirit tutoring me.   Am I a taker or a giver of charity? I work on it everyday.

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